Discover Life in America Conference Coverage including E.O. Wilson
World Famous Harvard Naturalist Helped Celebrate the Effort to Catalog Every Living Species in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The search for life in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was celebrated at a unique gathering in Gatlinburg, March 22-24, hosted by Discover Life in America (DLIA). The All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory Conference brings experts and volunteers from around the world in celebration of citizen science and the amazing biodiversity of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This year’s conference was titled “The Roots of Biodiversity with Dr. E.O. Wilson.”
The conference, with over 200 in attendance, was dedicated to a first of its kind project to discover every living species in the Park and was headlined by Wilson – the world renowned naturalist and author who spent a year studying at the University of Tennessee in the 1950s. Wilson has been called one of the most important biological theorists since Darwin by The New York Times and one of the Top 25 Most Influential Americans by Time Magazine.
“Dr. Wilson has been at the forefront of the global effort to save wildlife and species around the world and it is truly an honor to have him speak at our conference,” said Todd Witcher, Executive Director of DLIA. “He is a vocal supporter of efforts such as ATBI to document and protect species, and I hope his visit helped spur a renewed effort to save the Smokies’ spectacular wealth of biodiversity.” During his keynote address Dr. Wilson acknowledged the “groundbreaking work of Discover Life in America,” and urged citizens to “support not only this project in the Smokies, but all biodiversity research world-wide.”
The main focus of the three-day conference was to highlight the research, conservation and educational efforts being made to understand, manage and restore the estimated 60,000 – 80,000 species in the Smoky Mountains, considered to be one of the world’s most biologically diverse ecosystems. At the heart of this effort is the DLIA-organized All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI), a unique ecological undertaking to find and document every species of life in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, from ferns and fungi to birds and beetles.
The effort began in 1998 and is serving as a model for efforts to document the diversity of life throughout the nation—at other National Parks, State Parks, and in other preserves, large and small. To date over 900 species have been identified that are new to science and over 7,000 species have been identified that are new records for the Smokies.
In addition to scientific presentations, the conference featured field trips in the Smokies, nature hikes, photography workshops, fund-raising auctions and book signings. The opening reception included an open house at the Twin Creeks Science Center as part of the Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce program “Business After Hours,” which was sponsored by Smoky Mountain Brewery, Hilton Garden Inn, Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce, and Discover Life in America.
The culminating event was a “Special Evening with E.O. Wilson” at the Knoxville Museum of Art, which was a fundraiser for Discover Life in America. Dr. Wilson signed copies of his new book “The Social Conquest of Earth,” for many of the attendees, and again addressed the crowd with his straight-to-the-point call to action to save the Earth’s biodiversity. The conference and culminating event were a huge success, and helped to raise much needed funds for Discover Life in America and the Smokies’ All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory.
See some video highlights of the conference!